2015: The Year in Review, Part 1
Compiled by City Times Staff
City Hires Consultant for Riverfront Upgrades
The Wisconsin Rapids Finance and Property Committee on Tues, May 5 unanimously approved hiring a consultant to complete a design plan for a
two-mile section of public riverfront space.
The project will focus on the section of riverfront property between Riverview Expressway and the northern Wisconsin Rapids city limits.
Mayor Zach Vruwink said the city is working with Rep. Scott Krug to secure some state funding via a Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) grant.
“We’re very much convinced that- and other communities that have done this have demonstrated- once a city invests in itself with some of these public spaces, private investors will also invest- and they invest in different ways,” he said. “So we’re looking at a very large investment along the east river bank.”
Rapids Students See Heavy Metal
Wisconsin Rapids Area sophomores visited manufacturing sites and learned about industrial career opportunities during the 3rd annual Heavy Metal Bus Tour on May 20.
“We felt the need to shine the light on the manufacturing jobs that are available here in this community,” said Melissa Reichert, chamber president. “This is an idea that originated in Wausau…the idea to shine the light on metal manufacturing up in the Wausau community. We modeled our program after it.”
The tour, hosted by the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, exposes students to the various local career opportunities in the fields of engineering and manufacturing. Sophomores from Wisconsin Rapids and Nekoosa High Schools spent the day visiting local manufacturers including ERCO Worldwide, a chemical producer, and Jacoby Custom Cues, a pool cue manufacturer. Students also toured Mid-State Technical College to learn about the various educational programs available in the field.
“We are a very technically based company. Our manufacturing process requires good technical knowledge. When we search for new employees we’re really searching for high level mathematical, science, logic-based skills,” said Dawn Jenson, ERCO Worldwide technical manager. “We think this Heavy Metal Bus Tour is a really great way to start introducing students to the great kinds of jobs that exist right here in our community.”
Grand Rapids Fire Department Gets New Ladder Truck
Firefighters in the Town of Grand Rapids have a new ride.
The town announced this week it had replaced it aging aerial ladder truck. The new ladder truck is just another tool, according to Fire Chief Donald Bohn, in keeping the community safe.
“Our officers and firefighters are serious about the safety of all residents of the Town of Grand Rapids, and those in our contracted service areas in Saratoga and Grant,” Bohn said. “With the great community support and cooperation, our department is better able to serve everyone, residents and businesses alike.”
The new truck also helps the fire department keep its current high insurance classification. The town’s Public Safety Committee previously approved the truck.
“As the town chairman and a board member for over 20 years I am proud to see that our board recognizes our high quality well trained fire department members and are providing them with modern trucks and equipment,” said Town Chairman Arne Nystrom.
Council Approves Funding For Economic Growth Group
The Wisconsin Rapids Common Council approved a $20,716 contribution to the formation of a full-time president position for the Regional Economic Growth Initiative, a South Wood County no-profit group charged with fostering economic growth in the area.
“It’s a desire to have a regional entity that’s responsible for economic development,” said Adam Tegen, Wisconsin Rapids Director of Planning and Economic Development and REGI board member. “That’s encompassing not only working with our existing businesses to make sure they have what they need to stay open and to ideally expand and thrive in our community but also to be that forward-facing entity that goes out and is the public face of our region, trying to attract additional investment and companies in this area.”
Tegen said the REGI board is looking for a 3-year funding commitment from the city to get things off the ground and running.
“The goal of REGI and the new president when he is on board is to expand the funding for that entity. To bring in non-profit money and business money, utility money to try and offset any investment from the city or the other municipalities,” said Tegen.
Fire Department Receives Heart Attack Treatment Award
The Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department was presented the Bronze Level Recognition award from Mission: Lifeline on Tuesday for their work in improving treatment measures for victims of severe heart attacks.
“It’s really a testament to our investment as a city that we make in our services,” said Mayor Zach Vruwink. “It’s something as a city to hang our hat on. The fact that there’s now been an acknowledgement for our efforts to continue to be fast and provide a level of care that people need us for.”
Mission: Lifeline was created by the American Heart Association to improve treatment of ST-elevated myocardial infarctions (STEMI), a type of heart attack caused by a complete blockage of blood flow to the heart, and out of hospital cardiac arrests in order to make sure patients receive appropriate treatment, including heart catheterization, for their life-threatening conditions within an acceptable time frame.
That time frame is 90 minutes.
“If that happens within a 90-minute time frame, patient survivability is around 98 percent,” said Scott Young, WRFD Deputy Chief. “More importantly, the majority of patients can return to a quality lifestyle. By that I mean we hope they can maintain a lifestyle they had pre-cardiac incident.”
City Officials, Public See First Riverfront Options
Preliminary concepts for future possible updates to the Wisconsin Rapids riverfront were seen by city officials and the public over the last week, bringing a glimpse into what’s possible on the river.
“They’re definitely making progress by the way of achieving the objective of activating some of the spaces that we think can serve better purpose for the public,” said Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zachary Vruwink. “This stage was very much high level concepts. Then we get feedback from staff, elected officials and the public.”
New York-based Supermass, an urban landscape design firm, was hired by the city in May to complete a design plan for a two mile section of public riverfront space between the Riverview Expressway and the northern city limits. Many public parks dot the riverfront including Legion Park, Mead Rapids View Park and Veterans’ Memorial Park.
“I like the concepts. We all would like to make more use out of the riverfront,” said 8th District Alderman Terry Dolan. “But we’re going to need entities to work together to make that happen. Obviously the city doesn’t have the money to just do that.”
City Urges State to Improve Transportation Funding
After years of reduced state funding for road construction, the Wisconsin Rapids Common Council, in conjunction with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, unanimously approved a resolution calling for state support in transportation funding.
In a memo to the council, Vruwink outlined the need for support of the resolution.
“The current and future condition of our infrastructure, absent new revenues, threatens our economy- as lack of funds delay much needed projects and also threatens the state of our already declining and compromised roads and bridges. With the next biennium state budget already passed, the state must adopt a responsible level of bonding, user fees and other revenue sources to adequately fund Wisconsin’s transportation system to prevent further road deterioration and take a step in the right direction for improving our local road conditions.”
According to Vruwink, limits on amounts the city can levy from the citizens make it difficult for the city to fund road improvements and that responsible and sustainable bonding and an increase in vehicle user fees are needed to achieve this goal.
“Since we’ve chosen as a state, they’ve chosen not to do an iPass situation where you have a toll road at this time…something does need to be done,” said 7th District Alderman James Stack.
The resolution says that about 90 percent of Wisconsin roads are under the purview of local governments for improvement and repair. Also, according to a study by the Local Government Institute of Wisconsin, the condition of the state’s highways are in the bottom third of the country.
Rapids Accepted into Community Development Program
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has accepted 18 municipalities, including Wisconsin Rapids, into its Connect Communities Program, an initiative that works with communities to advance downtown and urban corridor revitalization efforts.
With the latest members, there are now 43 participants in the Connect Communities Program, which provides access to resources and training to help downtown organizations pursue revitalization and redevelopment efforts. Since the program was launched in January 2014, participating communities have reported adding 175 total new businesses and more than 500 jobs, as well as $30 million in private investment.
“We are proud that Wisconsin Rapids has been selected by the Connect Communities Program. This designation validates the vision shaped by years of local support – from the planning of civic leaders from years past down to our present day, to the interest and suggestions of everyday community residents.” said Mayor Zachary Vruwink in a memo. “With continued engagement from our citizens, our involvement with Connect Communities will help us to leverage the unique assets of our Downtown Riverbank district.”
Police, EMS Celebrate National Night Out
The Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services met for an afternoon of food and fun on Tuesday to celebrate National Night Out.
The National Night Out is an annual community building event that promotes police and community relationships and neighborhood camaraderie. Rapids has celebrate NNO for the past six years after joining the National Association of Town Watch.
“When we have a chance to interact in a positive way with our community and to let them know that law enforcement, EMS, fire, our rescue services, our ham operators, all these people that come together in a time of need, a time of emergency, it’s good to get to know us and have interaction with us during a non-emergent situation,” said Chief of Police Kurt Heuer.
Heuer has been chief for every NNO in Rapids.
“When the chips are down and something needs to be done in our community as far as an emergency there’s a trust factor,” said Heuer. “We work with some of the best here.”
Rapids Water Declared Best Tasting in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Rapids’ drinking water was declared the best tasting in Wisconsin this year, taking the title at the Wisconsin State Fair last week.
In the annual competition sponsored by the Wisconsin Water Assocation, Rapids’ water was chosen over 20 other drinking water utilities including 2nd place winner Arcadia and nearby Stevens Point that won 3rd place. Point had previously taken the title in 2009 and Arcadia was last year’s winner.
“I did bring a bottle of Wisconsin’s best tasting water this evening,” said Mayor Zachary Vruwink during his monthly report on Tuesday night at a meeting of the Wisconsin Rapids Common Council. “I can rub that in my peers faces as they’ve gone around and jabbed each other the last number of years for having the best tasting water. I can obviously turn the table on them.”
Judges included representatives from MillerCoors, Ocean Spray, the Water Council, the Public Service Commission and Wisconsin brew masters. The non-scientific judgement was made based on taste, odor and appearance of the water samples.
Firefighters Fill the Boot for MDA
Wisconsin Rapids Firefighters braved traffic today as they collected donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in their annual Fill the Boot fundraising campaign.
Firefighters gathered around the entrance to the Crossroads Center from noon to 4:30 PM gathering donations from passersby for the MDA’s various programs. Donations collected by the firefighters go toward research for cures to muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and other life-threatening diseases that can impair the ability of those diagnosed to walk, move or breath.
Firefighter Brian St. Myers said this year’s fundraising goal is $5,000, a goal they’ve achieved before but a substantial increase from last year’s total of about $3,000. St. Myers has worked on Fill the Boot for the past eight years.
“It’s nice to meet some of the people you serve and give them the opportunity to help someone else too,” said St. Myers.
MDA Fundraising Coordinator Heather Buchberger said the MDA spends $75,000 per day on research towards curing muscular dystrophy and related diseases so most of the funds raised go towards that effort. In addition to research, she said funds are also distributed to the MDA’s summer camps, support groups, free clinics and equipment repairs.
“Someday we want you guys not to be out here at all doing this because we have a cure for muscle disease,” said Buchberger to the firefighters.
5K Runners get Kolored for Kids
A sea of white t-shirts and clean faces were soon stained Saturday morning as the Kolor for Kids FunFest runners sprinted through five kilometers of brightly colored corn starch to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network.
The Kolor for Kids 5K color run began at 9:00 AM Saturday morning in an effort to raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network. This is the fourth Kolor for Kids event and has already raised over $12,000 this year. All money raised will benefit the local Children’s Miracle Network hospital, Ministry St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield, Wis. Proceeds will support medical equipment, child life specialists and patient specific grants.
Prior to the race, doves were released by Lindsey Krueger, this year’s Miracle Child, and her little sister Lauren.
“The doves are in remembrance of those who could not be with us today and it’s a celebration of life for those who are here as well,” said Amanda Vandehay, foundation development specialist at the Foundation of Ministry St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Lindsey received treatment from the CMN after suffering from head trauma caused by falling from a tree.
A grand finale of color throws ended the day in a plume of rainbow powder. The color run events have become increasingly popular fundraising events. Vandehay said that the color runs have been extremely successful since the CMN began using them for fundraising.
Rapids Funeral Home Takes Top Honors
Herman-Taylor Funeral Home has been honored by the National Funeral Directors Association with their 2015 Pursuit of Excellence Award.
Only 155 firms from around the world received this prestigious recognition, placing Herman-Taylor Funeral Home among an elite group of funeral service providers. Pursuit of Excellence Award recipients raise the bar on funeral service excellence by adhering to the highest ethical and professional standards and providing unsurpassed service to families and communities.
“Herman-Taylor Funeral Home’s voluntary participation in the Pursuit of Excellence Award program reflects a clear determination to exceed the expectations of those they serve,” said NFDA Chief Executive Officer Christine Pepper, CAE. “This prestigious recognition assures families of the high-quality, compassionate service they will receive the moment they walk through the funeral home’s front door.”
Local Author Publishes Cranberry Themed Children’s Book
The book, to be released on September 1, follows the adventures of Sam, the 7-year-old son of cranberry farmers, as he is invited to work his first cranberry harvest. Sam learns the process of harvesting cranberries from booming and corralling to picking and cleaning. Sam is hungry to learn about the cranberry’s harvest but more so to eat them.
“I was inspired to write this book from my experiences living on our family’s cranberry marsh and I’m very excited to bring it to readers,” said Detlefsen.
Detlefsen is originally from Janesville and went to art school at UW-Madison but she moved to the Rapids area after she got married. Her husband Robert continues to operate his family’s 140-acre cranberry farm on the Whittlesey marsh. The farm has been in the family since 1871. It has been part of the Ocean Spray family of cranberry farms since 1956 and produces the fruit for juices and sauce.
Waterski World Record Attempt Unsuccessful
The world record books will remain unchanged in one waterski event this year.
Multiple attempts by the Wisconsin Rapids Aqua Skiers and five other area ski show teams ended in failure as they tried to break the world record
for largest human waterskiing pyramid on Lake Wazeecha. The current record consists of 60 people in the pyramid. Saturday’s attempt was for a record 72 skiers. The six ski show teams include the Aqua Skiers, Aquaducks, Backwater Gamblers, Badgerland, Beaverland Must-Skis and Water Bugs ski show teams.
The skiers had a hard time getting beyond the starting platform. Once the pull boat took off, the skiers slid from their platform, hit the water and seemed to stop almost instantly. Upon a failure, all the skiers had to return to shore, and recoil their ropes, which were nearly 300 feet long, before heading to the start platform and trying again. Each reset took about 30 minutes.
Stay tunes for Part 2: September-December